"Obsession led me to write. It's been that way with every book I've ever written. I become completely consumed by a theme, by characters, by a desire to meet a challenge." ~ Anne Rice
An obsession is consuming. It often pushes other activities into the background. It compels and fills your thoughts and impassions your soul with desire. It becomes the beat of your heart and the pulse of your being. It drives you ever forward toward its object.
And while obsessive behavior can destroy and corrupt happiness, robbing it of a sense of freedom and will and sometimes even land you in prison, certain kinds of controlled obsessions can enhance the quality of your life. I recommend the following …
1. Be Obsessed with KindnessAre you drawn to kindness like a child to candy? Do you regularly think about how you can bless the lives of others? Do you wish you could do more?
An obsession with kindness can be seen in those who are constantly reaching out to do good. They are seen in soup kitchens, ladling soup, in food banks, boxing food and cleaning up after natural disasters.
Such people's hearts are filled with love and compassion and charity. They care about others, even those they don't know and have never met.
And it's an obsession that will draw the best from you as you reach out in service to others. It is guaranteed to add meaning to life and purpose to living.
2. Be Obsessed with ExcellenceNo matter what you do, be the best you can be at what you're doing within the time frame you have for doing it. If you have only 10 minutes to prepare for a presentation, for instance, then be the most focused and diligent preparer for each and every one of those 600 seconds.
Make excellence your motto and your theme song. Those obsessed with excellence can usually be found congregating at the top of their classes, at the top of corporate ladders and on the top of winner's platforms.
They show up to practices first and are the last ones to leave. They are self-motivated and yearn to improve and add value and innovate. They also inspire others to excellence by pursuing it and exemplifying it in themselves.
They go the extra mile and do those things others aren't willing to do. Often, it's the small things that put them at the top. They work on their free throw longer than others. They make the phone calls no one wants to make. They follow through and plan and pay attention to the details.
3. Be Obsessed with HappinessYou only have one mortal life. It can be filled with frustration and anger, bitterness, hatred, suspicion and resentment. Or we can become obsessed with developing those characteristics happy people possess.
People obsessed with their own happiness, when pursued correctly, find themselves very unfocussed on themselves in the long run. They quickly learn that the happiest people are focused on others. They develop traits like patience, compassion and gratitude. They smile freely and laugh often.
They are obsessed with seeing the good in the bad and believing that, with a little work, things will work out in the long run even if they aren't working out yet today.
4. Be Obsessed with GratitudeWhat a wonderful obsession to have! Such people possessed with this obsession habitually see beauty and opportunity and decency and humor even in life's most trying moments. Not only are they obsessed with expressions of gratitude, they're obsessed with being grateful, with feeling it deep inside.
They have an incurable passion for seeing the good and interpreting life in terms of its blessings even when others only see its pain.
5. Be Obsessed with WisdomThose plagued by this obsession hunger and thirst for knowledge and intellectual growth. But most of all, they seek to understand the wise application of that knowledge.
Knowing is one thing. Knowing how and why and if, is another.
If being smart is your capacity to learn and knowledge is what you've learned, then wisdom is knowing when and where and why that knowledge should be applied in any particular way … and when it shouldn't be.
That understanding is what is obsessed over. And so those obsessed with wisdom spend lots of time learning and thinking. They study a broad range of knowledge.
But they spend a particularly large amount of their study time with wisdom literature, reading deeply from philosophical and religious and spiritual texts.
Their libraries display books like Aristotle's Ethics, Marcus Aurelius's Meditations, Lao Tzu's Tao Te Ching, the Bible and Buddha's Dhammapada, among others.
6. Be Obsessed with CharacterA wit and intellect, a great sense of humor, popularity, a great personality are not enough for those obsessed with character.
They believe character, their personal commitment to a set of moral standards, is more important than gold or power or prestige. They're protective of it and don't place themselves in circumstances where they may be tempted to act against it.
They are not at the mercy of their emotions. They don't excuse bad behavior by citing bad feelings.
Such obsessives are very comfortable talking about morals and ethics and values and standards. They talk freely of courage and love, of humility, honesty and decency.
They work on being compassionate and kind. Their honor and integrity cannot be bought and are never compromised. Those so obsessed therefore tend to be deeply respected, trusted and admired. They see moral flaws of pride and selfishness as things to be overcome. Their word is their bond.
They stand for something which strengthens their sense of purpose. The beauty of those obsessed with character is that they seldom ever wince when they look deeply into a mirror, peering into the depths of their own souls. As such, they sleep peacefully, undisturbed by the pangs of conscience or guilt or shame.
7. Be Obsessed with GrowthPersonal growth obsessives are uncomfortable with plateaus and stagnation. They cringe at statements like, "That's just the way I am" or "You can't teach an old dog new tricks."
They challenge themselves and look for opportunities to learn and overcome, to stretch and become something better than they were before.
They grow spiritually, mentally, emotionally, professionally, and in their relationships. They work on their character and review their days and weeks and months and years to see how they can improve next time around.
They go to seminars and check out personal growth tapes from the public library. They read and work out and eat well and push themselves outside their comfort zones with regularity.
They welcome challenge because of the growth they experience from it. And because they are so dedicated to growth in general, they never become too lopsided, dedicated to one area of growth to the utter neglect of others.
Afterthoughts"I know quite certainly that I myself have no special talent; curiosity, obsession and dogged endurance … have brought me to my ideas." ~ Albert Einstein
Obsessions are tricky things. While those obsessed with whatever it is that drives them and defines them are those who tend to cluster at the top of any industry (sports, entertainment, business, whatever), those obsessed with what they do often struggle in other areas of their very successful lives.
Divorce, estranged children, character flaws made huge by media attention and health problems are commonplace among some of the people who have obsessed their way into the public spotlight.
There are healthy forms of obsession – a passionate form of dedication and drive – that leads to great things if you use that passion to move you steadily toward your goals instead of being controlled by those inordinate levels and kinds of obsessive qualities.
But an obsession with life, with living it well, fully, immersed in the joys of it, filled to capacity with the passion of living it, engulfed in the flow and rising tide of deep abiding happiness is an obsession that we would all do well to acquire.